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Indian firm slams UK retailer over radioactive belts

NEW DELHI: An Indian supplier of belts that were recalled for being radioactive accused British online fashion retailer Asos Thursday of acting without proof.

The London-listed retailer said on Tuesday that it had recalled a batch of belts -- made of leather and covered with metal studs -- in January after US customs officials found traces of Cobalt-60 in one of the products.

But Royal Ascot Leather, the Indian firm which supplied the belts, claimed Asos was unfairly seeking compensation over the recall and had failed to provide evidence of a safety threat.

"We asked them to return the belts so that we could send them for inspection," said Mohammad Shuja, owner of Royal Ascot, which is based in the northern Indian city of Kanpur.

"Asos has refused to do so. Instead they are asking for a hefty compensation citing an old British law," he told AFP.

"Asos has recalled our belts on the assumption that if a person wears it for more than 500 hours, he can get cancer. It is baffling how they arrived to such an assumption."

The Royal Ascot factory has been forced to shut down over the controversy, he said. Workers have been staging protests against Asos outside the premises demanding that their factory be reopened.

The recall put another question mark on growing concerns over toxic waste disposal methods and safety regulations in India where demand for scrap metal has soared because of a boom in 
construction and manufacturing.

Asos -- which counts US First Lady 
Michelle Obama among its fans -- sold around 50 of the belts to customers in some 15 countries before the recall.

An Asos spokesman told AFP in London on Tuesday that this "is a completely voluntary recall by Asos" and that "the risk from this product is pretty low".

Asos confirmed that an internal company report said the belts could cause injury if worn for more than 500 hours.

He stressed that no other Asos products were affected and that the company was in contact with the belt supplier "to ensure a satisfactory outcome".